Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 298 If it's Tuesday, this must be Guatemala...

I've been hiking quite a pace through hot and hilly Central America, but how can it be helped?  The towns the explorative Spaniards left behind are not spaced 40 kilometers apart, as is the norm for a colonial day's walk, but more consistantly closer to 50 kilometers.  It's a pleasant stretch of the legs I can't complain about, but by the time I get to a town, find the smiling assistance I need who will get me tucked into a parish house, convent or private house for the night, clean up and eat, there is just no time to even ask if there's internet available.  In these 18 days since my last blog, I've logged more than 800 kilometers, an average of 46 per day - and in such heat and humidity! though when I climb the shoulders of the dormant volcanoes, into plantations of coffee trees and rolling fields of corn, the cooler climate is welcomed.  Honestly, except for devoted sun-worshipping pilgrims, I can't recommend this area for long pilgrimages because of this brutish combination of heat and distance... It's hard to image why the Spaniards pushed forward to establish more widely spaced towns here.  Optimistically, I look forward to slightly cooler temperatures as I head northward into Mexico.  Another five days of walking and I'll be at the final border crossing of the journey.

Don't go thinking that I, the intrepid pilgrim, want the pilgrimage to end soon - no, no just the heat, and Central America is always hot, so it's unavoidable.  I had thought that walking through during the rainy season would be a bit easier than during the dry season - sound planning - but it's been a rather dry rainy season everywhere I've walked, one everyone is blaming on global warming and we're all somehow serving collective penance together.  Next pilgrimage will be deeply in winter where the world is covered in snow, so soft on the feet.

A highlight of my walk since the last blog has been the stopover at the Santuario de Esquipulas, the first night in Guatemala.  I stayed with the fellas at the Benedictine Monastery and Seminary and was lulled by the chanting within the stone walls.  Further on, I passed through a valley town called Mataquescuintla after a 2,000-meter descent and asked about a brilliant white church on the opposite mountainside.  A sanctuary, I was erroneously told, that compelled a visit.  There I found 32 nuns, with white habits and lispy northern Spain accents... quick to recognize the significance of the scallop shell on my backpack, they ushered me to a seat at the table, offered cafe-con-leche and bocadillas (little sandwiches) and to put a stamp in my credencial.  Their mission of the last 11 years since the house was founded has been perpetual adoration - for 24/7 a minimum of two nuns kneel before the monstrance to adore a consecrated host.  Perpetual anything is something to be admired... perpetual.  Eleven years may not be much, but someday, centuries from now, its significance will count for a lot, and they plan to continue for all time, eternity, without ever stopping.  You've got to start somewhere.  Something like the first pilgrimage begins with the first steps, and now I've tallied more than 30,000 kilometers (and at roughly 67 strides per 100 meters, that's...more than 20 million steps in this pilgrim life of mine).


Sheila Phelan Wright said...

OMG,,finally had coffee w. Eileen today and we were wondering where you were and how you are doing. Now we know. Good news that you are safe and running through Guatemala in the heat. Can't believe you and your body can take it.
Missing you. Hope you are back in late August, and hanging for a while.

ksam said...

Having a hard time wrapping my thoughts around the walk you've done this time! Hard to believe only one more border crossing to your destination. Hoping angels continue to keep you company and keep your footsteps on the right path at all times. Buen Camino